Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fast Food Wars: The Prelude

There are a few basic things I believe about fast food. First, it usually tastes great. Second, it’s very convenient. Those two aspects are precisely what make fast food so appealing in our busy lives despite the constant messages we receive about how unhealthy much of it is. The appeal of the taste and convenience often outweighs the guilty feeling that many people feel have after eating fast food. However, that guilt is reduced and sometimes absent altogether when people do not realize exactly how much fat, sodium, cholesterol, etc., that they are consuming. Don’t get me wrong…I love a fast food bacon cheeseburger with French fries, a few slices of pepperoni pizza, or a vanilla milkshake once in a while. So I’m not about to tell people never to eat fast food. However, based on personal experience, I believe that people would eat less of it or at least make better selections if they had the nutritional information handy.

Well the nutritional information is handy, you say. Technically, that’s true. You can go to the company’s website and view the nutritional chart but how many people are really going to do that when they make an impulse decision to pull through a drive thru on the way home from work? Not many. You can look in the restaurant for the nutritional information but it is not always displayed prominently and is not a viable option for someone going through a drive thru. In addition, even if you do look at the nutritional chart, there is usually so much information crammed into it that it is difficult to make sense out of it all when you have people breathing down your neck or tailgating you to make a selection because everyone is starving.

What we really needed is some type of guide that people can use and have readily available to make quick snap decisions about fast food selection at various restaurants. If you search the internet or flip thru magazines at the grocery store, you will find many articles entitled “Top 10 Worst Fast Foods” or some such thing. The articles usually list 10 fast foods to avoid and provide an option about something else to eat instead. I usually have a few problems with these articles. The first is that they all seem to come to different conclusions on which fast foods to avoid and do not tell the reader exactly how the foods were selected and ranked. Second, I can’t tell which restaurants were or were not included in the analyses. This is where MedFriendly enters the picture.

Being a scientist at heart, I thought it would be interesting to create a quick and easy formula and reference for people searching for ways to make better fast food selections. I wanted the public to know how I developed the formula so it can be reproduced by anyone and to let everyone know which restaurants were subjected to analysis. In creating the formula, I decided to take the six most common nutritional concerns that people have (total calories, saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates), add them together and divide by six. This yields an average score that I have termed the “UnHealthy Index” or the UHI. Higher UHI scores reflect unhealthier foods.

I did not use total fat in the equation because not all fat is bad for you. For example, cashews are high in fat but mostly in monosaturated fats, which is good for the body. Thus, I decided to stick with the two types of fat that are the worst for you: saturated fat and trans fat.
In deciding where to start with these analyses, I decided to start with my favorite food of all: pizza. Pizza does not tend to be analyzed in the articles I have previously reviewed. Although I tend to buy from local mom and pop pizza vendors, sometimes I will call or visit the occasional pizza chain. As best as I can ascertain, there are really four mega pizza chains: Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, Papa Johns Pizza, and my favorite (Little Caesars). Then, there is Sbarro’s Italian Eatery, where it always feels like I’m spending one hundred dollars for a slice of pizza at the mall. So I decided to look at Sbarro's too but unfortunately their website and stores do not provide nutritional information at the time this article was written. In fact, they've been telling me for a year now that they would have the nutritional information up soon and it is still not there. Read into that what you will. And lastly there is Pizzeria Uno. Although they don’t deliver, it’s a popular pizza destination and worthy of analysis.

Each pizza restaurant will be subjected to objective nutritional analysis and a handy reference with the results will be provided for you. When all restaurants have been analyzed, a final comparison between all of the above restaurants will ensue. It is this that I have deemed the Great Pizza Battle and it is the opening salvo to the Fast Food Wars, only on Come back Sunday  for the first analysis....Domino's Pizza.

1 comment:

  1. Beware the Burger King and his terrorist, read headed clown, minions Whopper, the Hamburguler and army of fries as they will surely hunt you down and kill you with a Kids Pack or a Sonic Blast.

    Just funnin' you know! ;-)

    I'm adding you to my blogroll ASAP.


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